With the NFL Draft finally commencing tomorrow, ESPN NFL Draft Analyst Mel Kiper has released his final mock draft for the first round. Kiper projects the Patriots drafting Alabama linebacker Courtney Upshaw with the No. 27 overall pick and Notre Dame safety Harrison Smith with the No. 31 overall pick
Both picks would help a defense that struggled mightily at times last year. Upshaw is 6-foot-2, 272 pound outside linebacker who plays with a lot of strength and could be a solid fit around some other talented players. Smith is a 6-foot-2, 213-pound safety who can play the ball well and isn't afraid to be physical.
Kiper thinks Upshaw is a solid all-around player that Bill Belichick typically likes.
Upshaw doesn't have the elite measurables, and he's not a speed merchant. What he can do is immediately help a defense with his skills as a pass-rusher and his willingness to use leverage and vision to do damage against the run. This is the kind of complete player Bill Belichick goes for, and he's a nice value here at a need position.
Kiper thinks the Patriots could take a corner, but Smith would be a valuable pick late in the first round.
The Patriots will address the pass rush with one of the first two picks, but I think they'll also look for help in the secondary if they like the value. Smith is a very good player. He takes great routes to the ball and he doesn't shy away when he's closer to the line and has to take on runners. Corner could be a target here, but Smith also makes your coverage better.